We Count: First-Time Voters Will Open at the Frist Art Museum on July 31
Exhibition will be on view in the Conte Community Arts Gallery from July 31, 2020 through January 3, 2021, and also remain online — The Nashville Flood: Ten Years Later will now close on July 26, 2020
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 10, 2020)—The Frist Art Museum will open We Count: First-Time Voters in the Conte Community Arts Gallery on July 31, 2020. The exhibition features the work of five local artists inspired by the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Originally introduced online while the Frist was temporarily closed because of COVID-19, the exhibition will now be presented in the museum’s galleries as originally intended through January 3, 2021. It will also remain online at FristArtMuseum.org/WeCount. The Nashville Flood: Ten Years Later, currently installed in the Conte Gallery and originally scheduled to be on view from January 10 through May 17, will now close on July 26.
“As this is our first-ever completely digital exhibition, we were thrilled with the experience and the new expanded audiences we were able to reach virtually—approximately 9,000 page views to date,” says Frist Art Museum assistant director for community engagement and exhibition curator Shaun Giles. “With the reopening of our building, we are now very excited to be able to install the works in our galleries as we had originally planned. In person, visitors will be able to appreciate new facets and details in the works, many of which are intricately designed and warrant close looking.” The online version of the exhibition—featuring artist interviews, a viewer response feature, and other resources, will remain on our website for anyone who wishes to experience the exhibition in the virtual space or learn more about the artists after viewing the works in the Conte Gallery.
We Count highlights the history and challenges of voting in the United States and the first voting experiences of a diverse group of Nashvillians. The artists—Beizar Aradini, M Kelley, Jerry Bedor Phillips, Thaxton Waters II, and Donna Woodley—connected with individuals and community groups across Nashville to learn about their voting experiences. The artists then created visual representations of those stories, through drawing, painting, printing, stitching, and other techniques. “Some topics that emerged from the conversations were disenfranchisement, awareness of everyday inequities, the challenges of the immigration and citizenship process, and the restoration of voting rights,” says Giles. “The resulting works of art embody both individual and collective insights on civic engagement and responsibility, as well as the systemic hurdles that prevent people from participating in our democracy.”
Together, the artists represent many different backgrounds of Americans—they have ancestors who were African, Kurdish, Latino, Native American, and Pacific Islanders. “We were intentional about reaching out to a diverse group of artists working in a variety of mediums,” says Giles. “They are all certainly skilled artists, but also community-oriented individuals who value shared dialogue and civic engagement."
The 19th Amendment, which guarantees and protects women’s right to vote, is especially significant to Tennessee, as it was the 36th state to pass the amendment, completing the three-quarters majority needed to make it the law of the land. Tennessee, however, is now ranked 49th in voter turnout and 45th in voter registration. “On top of all of our current challenges, 2020 contains a confluence of events in our country, with the census and the presidential election,” says Anne Henderson, Frist Art Museum director of education and engagement. “Through this exhibition, we hope to encourage visitors to exercise their constitutional right to vote and to deepen understanding of historic and ongoing struggles for equal voting rights.”
Several works address the struggles to gain or regain the right to vote. Beizar Aradini’s reflection on the immigrant experience of gaining citizenship is told through an embroidered poem and portrait mimicking an ID photo. M Kelley’s prints highlight the journey of reentry into society after incarceration, expressed through the use of iconic paper ballot and flag imagery, symbolic colors, and depictions of themes raised in interviews with those who have restored their rights and those who continue to work toward system reform.
Thaxton Waters II conducted interviews and held conversations throughout North Nashville. His painting addresses the persistent denial of voting rights to black men in the segregated South even after military service, as depicted in the faces of generations of soldiers. Roses surrounding the painting’s border symbolize the War of Roses, the battle between the ideals of suffragists and anti-suffragists.
In colored pencil drawings, Jerry Bedor Phillips portrays four members of the Nashville community who represent different backgrounds but are all engaged voting citizens concerned for the future and how they can help shape it. Donna Woodley celebrates a passionate and tireless voter’s advocate in North Nashville whom she got to know, paying tribute to her life in a pair of paintings.
Thursday, July 23
We Count Conversation: Jerry Bedor Phillips, with Vesna Pavlović and Shaun Giles
Free; registration required
To inform the artwork he created for We Count: First-Time Voters, Jerry Bedor Phillips spoke with four members of the Nashville community, including Vesna Pavlović, who shared her story of becoming a naturalized citizen. Join us for a virtual gathering with Phillips, Pavlović, and Shaun Giles, assistant director for community engagement, to hear about how Phillips’s interactions with the community members inspired the drawings in his series We Count: Four Voices. The program will be presented on Zoom.
Thursday, September 17
We Count Conversation: Beizar Aradini, with Drenusha Kolshi and Shaun Giles
Free; registration required
Beizar Aradini’s diptych My Existence is Political represents the vast amount of expressive freedom afforded to those with citizenship. The work features an embroidered portrait of her friend Drenusha Kolshi, a refugee and now-naturalized citizen, paired with a poem by Kolshi. Join us for a virtual gathering with the artist, Kolshi, and Shaun Giles, assistant director of community engagement, to hear more about Aradini’s work in We Count: First-Time Voters. This program will be presented on Zoom.
Details about online public programs for this exhibition will be posted on FristArtMuseum.org and @FristArtMuseum on our social media platforms.
Organized by the Frist Art Museum
Presenting sponsor: HCA Healthcare/TriStar Health
Supported in part by the Frist Art Museum’s O’Keeffe Circle Members, Ryman Hospitality Properties Foundation, and Neal & Harwell, PLC
The Frist Art Museum is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Connect with us @FristArtMuseum #TheFrist #WeCountAtTheFrist #MuseumAtHome
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
About the Frist Art Museum
Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Frist Art Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit art exhibition center dedicated to presenting and originating high-quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community outreach activities. Located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., the Frist Art Museum offers the finest visual art from local, regional, national, and international sources in exhibitions that inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways. Information on accessibility can be found at FristArtMuseum.org/accessibility. Gallery admission is free for visitors ages 18 and younger and for members, and $15 for adults. For current hours and additional information, visit FristArtMuseum.org or call 615.244.3340.